CINCINNATI — The Diamondbacks have agreed to sign veteran left-hander Dallas Keuchel to a minor-league contract, a deal that gives the club another potential rotation option at a time when its starting pitching depth is being tested.
Keuchel, 34, a former Cy Young Award winner with the Houston Astros, was in the middle of a second consecutive rough season with the Chicago White Sox before being released last week. In eight starts, he had a 7.88 ERA with 20 walks, 20 strikeouts and six home runs allowed in 32 innings.
The deal reunites Keuchel with Diamondbacks pitching coach Brent Strom, who was Keuchel’s pitching coach for five seasons with the Houston Astros from 2014 to 2018. Diamondbacks General Manager Mike Hazen made it sound like Strom played no small part in the club’s decision to sign Keuchel.
“We’re always looking to add to our pitching anytime we can,” Hazen said. “(Strom) feels like there’s some things to unlock with him. We’re going to take some time to try to put some of those things into effect. Obviously, he has a longstanding relationship with him. We’re going to see how that goes.”
Hazen said Keuchel will report to Salt River Fields, the Diamondbacks’ spring training facility, and that Keuchel and Strom will be able to work together there in the mornings when the Diamondbacks are in town.
Hazen said that since Keuchel hasn’t been idle for long he won’t require a long build up and could appear in a game sometime in the next 10 days. That likely will come in the Arizona Complex League, which started its season on Monday.
Keuchel’s contract includes three dates — June 25, July 3 and July 11 — at which he can opt-out to become a free agent.
Keuchel and Strom were together when Keuchel logged a 2.48 ERA in 232 innings in 2015, the year he won the American League Cy Young Award. During their five seasons together, Keuchel posted a 3.28 ERA in 950 1/3 innings.
In his first year with the White Sox, Keuchel logged a 1.99 ERA in 11 starts during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season. But his numbers have cratered since last July; over his past 24 outings, he has a 7.11 ERA with 20 homers allowed in 107 2/3 innings.
Keuchel was in the final year of a three-year, $55.5 million deal he signed with the White Sox prior to the 2020 season. The Diamondbacks will pay Keuchel a prorated portion of the major league minimum should he be promoted to the majors.
The Diamondbacks last week lost right-hander Humberto Castellanos to an elbow injury, opening a spot at the back of their rotation. Left-hander Tyler Gilbert will get the first crack at staking a claim to that spot; he is scheduled to face the Cincinnati Reds on Tuesday night.
Despite ugly numbers in Triple-A Reno, Gilbert appears to be getting the nod based on his past performance at the major league level.
Gilbert owns a 10.65 ERA in 23 2/3 innings in the extremely hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League this year but has logged a 3.64 ERA in 54 1/3 innings in the majors across the past two seasons.
His 5.02 ERA in three games (two starts) this year might look better had manager Torey Lovullo been quicker with the hook last month in Los Angeles, a decision Lovullo has said he wishes he could have back.
“I know he hadn’t had a very good outing (in Reno) prior to getting this opportunity, but he’s obviously very intriguing,” manager Torey Lovullo said. “He comes up here and does his job every single time we ask him to. That’s the main reason. We know what he’s capable of doing.”
The club went with Gilbert over right-hander Corbin Martin, who has a 4.44 ERA in five starts with Reno. Martin has thrown particularly well over his past two outings, giving up two earned runs in 11 2/3 innings, with four walks and 14 strikeouts.
Right-hander Luke Weaver will continue to be built up as a starter as he continues to make rehab appearances for Reno. He is scheduled to throw four innings and 60 pitches on Tuesday, Lovullo said.
“I think we’re trying to remain as fluid as possible, knowing what our situation is with (Castellanos),” Lovullo said. “We are obviously going to consider all options.”
*Hazen said the club was still trying to determine the extent of the Castellanos’ injury, which is being called a right forearm strain.
*Catcher Carson Kelly (oblique) is 3 for 6 with a double, a home run and two walks in two games on a rehab assignment with Reno. He was scheduled to be off on Monday before playing again on Tuesday, Lovullo said.
*Right-hander J.B. Bukauskas has paused his rehab from a shoulder issue due to hamstring tightness, Lovullo said.
This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Diamondbacks to sign Dallas Keuchel to minors deal